6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: This is a 15-20 minute devotional designed to help people transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas with the proper heart. A good Christmas message for early in the season.

(opened this message with a video clip entitled ’The Paradox of our Time’ downloaded from Sermonspice.com. The first paragraph ’show pics’ included pictures of dogs with cats, and other comical unexpected partnerships.)

We live in a world of paradox. At a time of great paradox. In the dictionary, you will find paradox defined something like “exhibiting contradictory aspects.” In other words, seeing two different things at once that don’t go together. Kind of like an intelligent Louisville Cardinal fan. Kind of like some of these pictures. (Show pics.) These would be visual examples of paradox.

And there may not be any greater experience of paradox from year to year than during the next 30 days. Those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas when many people’s lives truly exhibit contradictory aspects.

Think about all that is contained in these 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Thursday, we sat down with great delight to the most wondrous feast of the year. Couldn’t wait to dive in to the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, pumpkin pie. But by yesterday afternoon, I dare say the exact same food evoked much less joyous emotions. In fact, my mere mentioning of the food might make some of you nocuous. Now that we are into turkey soup, turkey casserole, turkey sandwiches. . .

What a paradox. Or how about this one? We go from praising God on Thanksgiving for all that He has blessed us with. All those material blessings in our lives. To just minutes later sharing Christmas lists with anyone who will listen documenting what we still need. The story goes of a little girl who climbed onto Santa’s lap, and Santa asked the usual question: "What would you like for Christmas?" The child stared at him open mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped: "Didn’t you get my E-mail?"

There is the seasonal paradox of what we believe in. We claim we believe in the factual existence of Christ, and not that other guy in a red suit. . .but what do our words and deeds say?

Christmas was fast approaching when a father reminded his eight-year-old son that he would soon be visiting with Santa Claus. The boy seemed unusually resistant to the idea, so the dad asked, ’You do believe in Santa, don’t you?’ The boy thought hard, then said, ’Yes, but I think this is the last year.’

This is a season of great paradox. We tell ourselves it is all about a little baby, born in a humble manger, while swiping the credit cards and going deeper and deeper into debt.

As a pastor, I have already prepared for the ultimate paradox which falls every so many years. It will happen four weeks from today. Christmas will land smack dab on a Sunday. A day that in our faith and creeds we will claim to be one of the greatest days in all history, but yet most will not find a way to get to the church for an hour of worship. “After all pastor, it is Christmas day.”

According to a National Religious Broadcasters analysis of 48,000 hours of programming during December 2002, 90% of programming did not have a significant spiritual theme. Some 7% had a religious or spiritual theme but did not refer to Jesus. Jesus was the focus of only 3% of Christmas programming. These 30 days, this season, is one of great paradox.

So I thought it might be good to take just a few moments, and explore a paradox in the Bible that might be a good reminder for us as we zoom through this most wonderful time of the year. It’s a story about two sisters with two very different personalities.

One sister is wearing an apron. She knows how to run a kitchen. Stirring with one hand, cracking eggs with the other. She knows what she is doing as she prepares the food for a large crowd. The crowd is in the next room laughing, and sounding like they are having a pretty good time. But Martha isn’t. In fact, despite what a wonderful time this should be for Martha, much like the wonderful time the holidays should be for each of us. . .resentment is building.

You can almost hear her saying, “That Mary. Here I am alone in the kitchen while she’s out there. Wouldn’t have invited Jesus over if I’d known he was gonna bring the whole army. Those guys eat like horses, and that Peter always belches.”

Then there’s the other sister. . .Mary. Sitting on the floor, just listening to Jesus. Seemingly without a care in the world, or an awareness of just how hectic things should be at this very moment. Two very different people. And Martha can’t take it anymore. So look at what happens in Luke chapter 10, verse 40 (read).

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